There’s no easy way to master Los Angeles. It’s massive—twice the size of Chicago—and the cultural landscape shifts with every block. The general wisdom is to stick to a single neighborhood, but as our list proves below, the real fun is in exploring all the city’s different flavors. Here’s where to have fun every night of the week on your next trip to L.A.:
Mellow Sunday Jazz
There’s no such thing as a bad night at Blue Whale, Little Tokyo’s unsung jazz palace, hidden in a food court between East 1st and East 2nd Streets. For jazz purists, it doesn’t get much better: there’s a show practically every night of the week (at 9 p.m.), the stage is ground-level, and the caliber is high. Better yet, seating is open, and no reservations are required—just show up, pay $10 at the door, and let yourself be transported.
The best part about Motown Mondays, a weekly dance bash thrown at Echo Park’s delightful Short Stop, isn’t the lack of cover. Nor is it the DJs, who are, by the way, fantastic, and come from all over the country. It’s the pure feeling of celebration that suffuses the space, every Monday from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.—delighting the disco-dancing crowds with “nonstop sweet soul and heavy funk sounds” all night long (if you don’t believe us, just watch this video of the funk in action).
There’s a fun hideout off Hollywood Boulevard called Boardners, with 1940s-style pendant lamps and a long stretch of leather stools pulled up along the bar. In fact, the place has been around since the 1940s (everyone from Errol Flynn to Courtney Love has passed through these doors), but it’s no relic. Most Sunday nights, the back courtyard hosts Master Cleanse, a free comedy showcase featuring solid acts like Debra DiGiovanni and Brandon Wardell. But the real draw is Tuesday night happy hour (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.), when all beer, cocktails, and non-specialty well drinks are two for one.
Mid-Week Night Ride
If midnight biking is up your alley, check out LA’s The Passage Ride, which meets every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at a donut shop in Koreatown. The concept is simple: show up with your bike, and follow the leader on a 30-mile ride through LA’s back alleys, playgrounds, and dirt trails, culminating with a round of victory donuts. For purposes of adventure, the route is kept intentionally vague—though expect “disorientation” and the occasional “full-moon picnic.” As for difficulty level, the ride isn’t for beginners (then again, no beginner should technically be biking in an unknown city after dark, period). “We are interested in exploration, not athletics,” the website reads. “We try to keep together and wait for anyone who falls behind. You can do it!”
Thursday Night Jams
Still itching for some glam? Sayers Club is your pick. Operated by the same company responsible for those hip SLS hotels, the upscale venue has leather couches, bottle service, and a small stage that dramatically drops from the ceiling. It’s all about the spectacle here: show up at 10 p.m. on Thursday for Sayers Sessions ($17.99 cover), a buzzy showcase that hosts acts from around the world, including “surprise” impromptu performances by the likes of Prince, Gotye and the Black Keys. (Tip: this is a classy venue, so be sure to dress the part.)
Fridays at Zanzibar
If you’re staying in Santa Monica, the obvious choice for some end-of-week boogying is Zanzibar, a laid-back dance club with decor inspired by its namesake archipelago in the Indian Ocean. At the weekly The Goods dance party ($10 cover after 10 p.m.), drinks are affordable, the music is eclectic (curated by KCRW’s DJ Anthony Valadez), and the crowds, who come out in droves from around the city, get wild. For more world-influenced sounds, show up on Monday (salsa) and Thursday (funk).
What would a trip to La-La-Land be without a good old-fashioned movie night? This spring, when you’re in town, skip the big multiplexes and head straight to the Million Dollar Theatre, downtown L.A.’s 1918-built movie palace, designed by Sid Grauman, of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The gorgeous venue hosts Street Food Cinema, an outdoor movie event (and LA’s largest), taking place every Saturday night from May through October. Grab your munchies from the vendors at Grand Central Market—Austyn’s Burgers, Frach’s Fried Ice Cream, Oh My Gaga, and the Beignet Truck, to name a few—and settle down in front of the 40-foot-wide screen. Saturday nights don’t get more relaxing than this.